It's been three months since the world flipped itself wrong-way-round and my life shifted into a parallel dimension in which I am a mother and not-a-mother. There was a splintering, a fracturing, and I learned that it is possible to live several lives simultaneously; I understand and yet I prickle. I am compassionate and also taste the bitterness I hope to avoid. I hold my head up and let the tears roll down my cheeks. I am defiant, speaking his name, demanding acknowledgement, and I hold him close to me, my own tiny little boy. I seek light and I shrink from it. I hold my motherhood in my hands and it is alien.
And I don't know if I would have recollected the significance of the 24th day of the month - despite having cleaned my silver band, my Gabriel ring, just this morning and run my fingers over the engraving - had I not been discussing my Thanksgiving plans with a colleague and grimacing over the fact that I had not actually successfully avoided a full meal celebration with the in-laws. When she asked why I made a face, I summarized our history and then I blurted out without thinking that it would also be my first face-to-face since the baby died. She looked confused and asked when that happened (she was not here then, and has only heard snippets since, and God knows my uterine history is awfully confusing without a handy timeline in front of you), and I said "August. August 24th. Three months ago . . . exactly, actually."
Three mere months. I would not even have been near delivery yet. In fact, I read a post from my friend who is due the day after Gabriel was due about how the baby has shifted, and thought 'how bizarre that a few months ago we were comparing notes on the big ultrasound and the NT scan and morning sickness.' I am so far removed from my pregnancy in my mind now it might as well have been three years ago. It was startling to realize that the people I was pregnant with are still pregnant, because the world I walk in is so very different.
Three months without my son.
And it doesn't feel like yesterday. The pain is still there, the sadness and grief still lurk. And yet . . . as someone once wrote in a way that seemed a promise to me:
One day, you breathe. And you know that, despite not being fashionable or palatable, you are more compassionate now than you ever were before. You know how surreal it is to cradle an urn in rush hour traffic. You are all at once a giant and a meek, trembling, spitting thing. You know now to embrace both. You know that it's not your fault that some people can't bear the taste of black licorice.
One day you breathe, and it almost feels like oxygen.
And I do breathe and it does feel like oxygen. The alien-ness and foreign-ness and new-ness is gone, and strange as this new life is, I've become comfortable in it. I don't like it, and parts of it make me want to shriek and scream, but I don't, and that's ok.
Three months. It won't be long before he will have been gone longer than he was here. We are moved on, focusing on another shadow-child, another pregnancy . . . and yet he is with us still. With us always. A child of shadow and light, little more than a whisper carried on the wind and a butterfly from nowhere that makes me whisper in my head "Gabriel? Is that you, precious one?"
I still crave proof of his existence, still long to hear his name spoken by other people, still force his being in front of other people so that it cannot be denied. But with passing time, I grow more certain that Gabriel was, and Gabriel is, and Gabriel will be. He is not what I had wanted and will not be what I had hoped, but perhaps our parenthood is not so different from living children after all, in the end, because he will be what he will be, and I know now that my love for him does not and will not change.
Gabe, my darling, we love you and miss you.